3 years ago

A Single Community Dominates Structure and Function of a Mixture of Multiple Methanogenic Communities

A Single Community Dominates Structure and Function of a Mixture of Multiple Methanogenic Communities
Sarah Bastkowski, Mark Alston, Tobias Großkopf, Orkun S. Soyer, Pawel Sierocinski, Florian Bayer, Phil J. Hobbs, Angus Buckling, Kim Milferstedt, Jérôme Hamelin, David Swarbreck


The ecology of microbes frequently involves the mixing of entire communities (community coalescence), for example, flooding events, host excretion, and soil tillage [1, 2], yet the consequences of this process for community structure and function are poorly understood [3–7]. Recent theory suggests that a community, due to coevolution between constituent species, may act as a partially cohesive unit [8–11], resulting in one community dominating after community coalescence. This dominant community is predicted to be the one that uses resources most efficiently when grown in isolation [11]. We experimentally tested these predictions using methanogenic communities, for which efficient resource use, quantified by methane production, requires coevolved cross-feeding interactions between species [12]. After propagation in laboratory-scale anaerobic digesters, community composition (determined from 16S rRNA sequencing) and methane production of mixtures of communities closely resembled that of the single most productive community grown in isolation. Analysis of each community's contribution toward the final mixture suggests that certain combinations of taxa within a community might be co-selected as a result of coevolved interactions. As a corollary of these findings, we also show that methane production increased with the number of inoculated communities. These findings are relevant to the understanding of the ecological dynamics of natural microbial communities, as well as demonstrating a simple method of predictably enhancing microbial community function in biotechnology, health, and agriculture [13].

Publisher URL: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(17)31254-X

DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.09.056

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